Music is often prescribed to patients with Parkinsons Disease and stroke victims.
Complementary therapies are healing practices, performed in addition to standard treatments, with the goal of improving quality of life. My previous blog on art therapy and its use in Parkinson's disease (PD) introduced the concept of complementary therapies. Today, I will discuss complementary therapies more generally and also concentrate on music, dance and singing therapies that are used for PD.
As I have mentioned, some of the complementary therapies that are in use for PD include exercise/movement therapies such as boxing, yoga, and Tai chi, mindfulness techniques such as meditation, manual practices such as acupuncture and massage, and creative pursuits such as singing, music therapy, dance therapy, theater and art therapy.
Most of these complementary therapies have been formally studied in PD patients in some manner, although usually only in small groups of people. Don't see your therapy of choice mentioned? Don't worry – the above list is not meant to be comprehensive and does not include every complementary therapy which has been studied in PD patients. However, it is also necessary to point out that there are many types of complementary treatments marketed to people with PD with no data supporting their use at all. Therefore, before you start any complementary therapy, please discuss it with your neurologist. It is wise to stick with a therapy that has at least some data supporting its use in PD. Always avoid therapies that claim to "cure" PD, as none have been proven to do so and these are false claims.
Therapies that involve music, including both singing to and moving to music, are very popular for PD patients. Music-based therapies may work in a variety of ways to improve PD-related challenges. The types of therapies that utilize the qualities of music are numerous and varied and it is hard to capture the full breadth of what is available. They may include:
Music therapy – this is a therapy defined broadly by the American Music Therapy Association as "a treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music [through which] clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives." Music therapy may have a role in helping those with PD. One particular technique is known as rhythmic auditory cueing, in which rhythm is used to facilitate movement and improve gait. People with PD often note that moving or walking to a rhythm helps improve their movement and employing rhythm to help people with PD is frequently used by PD rehabilitation experts. Music is a great way to provide that rhythm.